BUILDING BONDS How to let your kid share in your hobbies STORY Kevin Coffey
love games. I have a video game console hooked into every one of our televisions. My basement has shelves and shelves full of tabletop games. I have a 20-sided die tattooed on my body. Games (video games, board games, role-playing games) are something I think about a lot. They’re something I do a lot. But when my kids ask to play, it can be hard to accommodate them. Look, the games I play are geared toward someone my age, not a 5-year-old and certainly not a 2-year-old. They can’t play “Call of Duty.” Heck, they can’t even watch me play “Call of Duty.” But my sons, Sammy and Elliott, definitely want to join in on the fun of gaming. Sharing my hobbies — games, of course, as well as baseball, drawing, movies and various other things — can be hard to do with kids so young. But they’re into whatever their dad is into — they still think I’m cool! — so I want to engage them as much as possible. I’ve done my best to let them into my worlds a little bit, and I’ve discovered a few
things you may also find effective. • Let them join you. Little ones just want to hang out with Mom and Dad sometimes. Let them. That may mean downshifting from “Mass Effect” to a session of “Angry Birds,” but they’ll be so grateful they could have fun with you. • Don’t force it. The worst thing you can do is try to force your hobbies on your kids. How many times have we seen a miserable kid being dragged to baseball practice while Dad thinks it’s the greatest thing ever? Or a parent forcing some classic band on a kid who just wants to hear Taylor Swift? Push it on them, and they’ll hate it. Let them enjoy it in their own way, and they’ll actually, you know, enjoy it. • Find something appropriate that you also enjoy. I can’t play violent video games — “Call of Duty,” “Resident Evil,” “Mortal Kombat” — around my kids. I also don’t feel right listening to certain music — any pop song with violence or sex — around them either. “OK for kids” doesn’t always equate to “childish.” You can find something you dig that’s OK for them to consume.
• Fake it, if you can. My kids often interrupt me reading a book or playing a video game. They want me to tell them the story. They want to play the game. I’ve been known to summarize a book I’m reading in kid-friendly terms or hand over a controller that’s not even plugged in. They enjoy the moment and move onto the next thing. • Introduce your hobby in their terms. My older son loves baseball. Well, he says he does. I think he just likes to sit on the couch with me. Inevitably, he asks what they’re doing on the field. I could go on all day about the Mets and the finer rules of baseball, but he’ll stop listening pretty quickly. What works better: “That guy throws the ball, and the other guy tries to hit it.” Simple. • Take an interest in what they’re doing. Rather than trying to bend your hobbies in a kid-friendly direction, join your kids in what they’re doing. Play the video games they like. Read the books they want. Draw superheroes for them. They’ll love the time you spend with them.
Kevin Coffey covers music and other entertainment for The World-Herald. He is married to momaha.com editor Ashlee Coffey.
A parenting magazine from the Omaha World-Herald